The Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee has moved an amended version of a bill involving funding for the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative forward. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry testified in favor of the effort, calling “adequate funding” the “carrot” that will push communities to compete for investment.

March 26, 2015

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry's Testimony to The Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee

Chairman Kenley and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of the Regional Cities Initiative.

I would like to begin today by thanking the State of Indiana for being a great partner in development efforts in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana.

What has happened in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana over the last decade proves that the Regional Cities Initiative can and will work. Our regional success story includes:

–Building a vibrant downtown that serves as the center piece of our community;

–Large economic development projects such as GM, Steel Dynamics, and most recently the retention of Ash Brokerage who is building its national corporate headquarters in our downtown;

–We have figured out that a strong Fort Wayne means we have a strong 10 county region; and if our 10 county region is strong then Fort Wayne will be strong.

Indiana is competing with surrounding states and other destinations to gain and retain top talent and our work force is a top priority.

Quality of place is becoming a key attraction factor for economic development.

–Because of the leadership in the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana has a favorable tax climate, available infrastructure, and dedicated workforce.

–To attract top talent among young professionals and the next generation of leaders we need to take a hard look at quality of life amenities.

–Building communities, cities, towns, counties, and regions with a sense of place is the next step in Indiana’s continued success.

I want to give a lot of credit to the Governor, the IEDC and Eric Doden for the work they have done to identify this approach of incentivizing regions to work together to develop long term plans that will ultimately compete for state incentives. This is a bold new way of thinking about regional planning and development.

For those regions that have not yet found a way to work together to plan for growth on a regional level this will be a catalyst to get started. And, for those regions such as Northeast Indiana that have invested time and resources to plan regionally, then this will be an opportunity to evaluate and update those plans for improvement.

The initiative that has been brought forward creates both a formal structure as well as a funding mechanism for transformational development on a regional level.

–Of course, I think that we all know putting the ‘formal structure’ in place is much easier to talk about than the 'funding mechanism.'

–Like you, I am held accountable by the taxpayers and understand the constraints of the budget process.

–However, what I would like to impress upon each of you is that the funding is the carrot that will motivate the regions to develop their plans and compete for investment.

–The opportunity needs to outweigh the cost.

Northeast Indiana recognizes the value of a regional approach to improving the lives of our residents.

The Regional Cities Initiative that has been brought forward by the Governor and the IEDC is a creative proposal that if adequately funded will incentivize regional planning, development, and growth statewide.

I ask you to support the Regional Cities Initiative both conceptually and financially.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I will be happy to answer any questions.

Source: Office of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry

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